HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Welcome to the playoff chase, Minnesota. You have officially arrived.
The Timberwolves still have plenty of work to do if they want in on the NBA’s postseason party. The dream is fading. But they are not completely out of it yet and they are on the right path.
When your stars go after each other on the sideline before, during or after an ugly showing against a lesser opponent, you have the makings of a team that is serious about making some noise in the playoff hunt.
Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love and point guard J.J. Barea, who collected his ring while with the Mavericks last season, got into a dust-up on the bench during a timeout in a game they would eventually lose to the Kings (see a little of the argument at about the 2-minute mark in the clip above).
Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune provides the details. We’re not talking Thrilla in Manila stuff here, but there was definitely some chest-puffing going on (this blow-by-blow from Steve McPherson is worth a look):
Barea stepped toward Love while the two exchanged words and Love rose from his seat on the bench until Luke Ridnour ushered Barea away and Martell Webster did the same with Love.
By then, the Wolves’ third consecutive loss was all but assured, six days after they began this seven-game, 13-day road trip with a victory at Phoenix.
Love and Barea both put the same name to an afternoon when they briefly turned on each other. Meanwhile, the struggling Kings ran away to a 20-point fourth-quarter lead and a 115-point total two days after they put 120 points on the scoreboard and beat the Boston Celtics by 25.
“Frustration,” Barea said.
Barea called the afternoon’s outcome “terrible, worst loss of the year if you want to put it timingwise” after the Wolves committed 21 turnovers and acquiesced in a fourth quarter when they gave up the good fight, after losing in overtime at Utah on Thursday and remaining respectable against the Lakers on Friday.
“Part of the game, competitors trying to win,” Barea said. “We’re frustrated that we’re losing, but it happens, every basketball team. We just got into it. It’s all right. He said something I didn’t like, I said it back and we’re all good. Nothing against him.”
This is one of those instances when a little overheating is for the greater good. The Timberwolves need to get upset. They are letting a playoff opportunity slip away with their recent play (losing three straight and going 4-6 in their last 10 games).
It’s rare that we would argue for this sort of public display of discontent between teammates, and we’re glad Love and Barea didn’t drag their temporary temper tantrums off the court.
But they are right to care enough to go at each other a little bit. Desperate times call for desperate measures, fellas.